1 B1G takeaway from every team in Week 4
For the first time in 2020, a week in the Big Ten went mostly according to plan. Michigan and Penn State plunged further, while Wisconsin, Northwestern and Indiana continued to roll.
Here is 1 B1G takeaway from every team in Week 4, starting with the 6 winners:
Wisconsin – Still looks like the best team in the West
Amid all this well-deserved praise for teams like Indiana, Northwestern and Purdue, Wisconsin has been waiting in the wings. The Badgers finally returned from their 2-game COVID hiatus, and they did so with a vengeance. They obliterated Michigan in every phase of the game. It was stunning to see a team that couldn’t practice for 11 days come out and out-gain Michigan 129-1 in the first quarter. Graham Mertz wasn’t as sharp as he was in the opener, but can you blame him? He tested positive right after that game and only got cleared Friday. But yes, Wisconsin was shockingly good for barely practicing in 2 weeks and also being without 10 players who could’ve been listed on the 2-deep. What happens when this team really gets back into the swing of things?
Iowa – It has rediscovered its identity
For the second straight game, Iowa leaned on its running back duo of Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent. And that was probably an obvious game plan, considering Minnesota’s atrocious run defense that came into the game allowing over 7 yards per carry. Spencer Petras is averaging 22.5 pass attempts the last 2 games after averaging 44.5 (nearly double!) pass attempts the first 2 games. Playing with a lead helps, like against Minnesota and last week against Michigan State, but Iowa was also up 17-0 against Northwestern and Petras still somehow threw it 50 times.
Indiana – Ty Fryfogle is a star in his own right
The state of Michigan has seen enough of Ty Fryfogle. The senior wideout went nuts for a second straight week against a team from Michigan, this time terrorizing Michigan State with 178 receiving yards and 2 TDs — in the first half (which was the most by a B1G player in the first half since 2010). Fryfogle finished with 11 catches for 200 yards, giving him 18 catches for 342 yards over the last 2 weeks. Fryfogle is extremely talented — peep the way he adjusted his body and snared this low pass on the sideline, then raced for a TD — that it’s surprising he only had 1 career 100-yard game coming into this season. Now his 424 receiving yards lead the Big Ten.
Michael Penix to Ty Fryfogle is a thing of beauty🔥🔥
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 14, 2020
Northwestern – A new red-zone weapon?
Northwestern is a team that does more with less, which is a nice way to say that it doesn’t rack up any style points. But hey, 4-0 is 4-0. The Wildcats don’t have a ton of weapons, so when a potential one emerges, it is noteworthy. That appears to be the case for Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, who caught 8 passes for 86 yards and 3 TDs. I’ll temper expectations for Chiaokhiao-Bowman, as his only career TD before this came in 2017. But Peyton Ramsey clearly had a connection with him on Saturday and hit him on a variety of routes, too.
RCB popped off. 🙀
— Northwestern On BTN (@NUOnBTN) November 15, 2020
Nebraska – Wan’Dale Robinson needs to be more involved
Obviously, the big takeaway is the start of the Luke McCaffrey era at QB (which you can read about here, with more on coming Monday), so at the risk of repeating myself, let’s focus on another interesting development in Nebraska’s first win in nearly a year: Wan’Dale Robinson becoming more involved. Robinson didn’t get a single carry in the first 2 games, though he did catch 10 passes. Scott Frost obviously decided that Robinson, normally a wide receiver, needed to be more involved, as he tallied 16 carries (in addition to 5 catches) in Saturday’s win over Penn State. While that resulted in a meager 60 rushing yards, it was telling that Frost turned to him after starting running back Dedrick Mills got nicked up. Robinson is a dynamic player, and he showed last year that he can play both positions. The more touches, the better.
Illinois – It’s time to see what Isaiah Williams can do
Illinois has now started 4 QBs over the last 4 games (due to injuries and COVID), and Williams is the most intriguing of the bunch. A former 4-star recruit, he is a terrific athlete, as he showed in running for 195 yards and a TD on 31 (!) attempts — the most rushing yards by a QB this season. Williams is still a work in progress as a passer, completing just 7-of-18 passes for 104 yards. He is now only 10-of-31 in his career. But when a guy can run like that, it’s worth exploring. The game against Nebraska and Luke McCaffrey next week could finish in record time.
Penn State – James Franklin had no choice but to pull Sean Clifford
Sean Clifford had a good season in 2019 and helped Penn State finish the season ranked in the top 10. But 2020 has been a much different story, and James Franklin did the right thing by pulling his junior QB. Clifford has struggled this season, seemingly getting worse every week. That culminated in him turning the ball over twice in a little over a quarter. His interception was a terribly thrown ball on an out route, and his fumble was even worse because he dropped the ball as he was getting sacked and it was returned for a 26-yard TD. Will Levis led Penn State into the red zone twice with chances to tie it up late, but he came up empty both times.
Michigan – The Wolverines have given up
That’s the only logical conclusion one can come to after watching that embarrassing performance in primetime on national TV, which resulted in Michigan’s worst home loss since 1935. Michigan was playing at home against a Wisconsin team that hadn’t played in 3 weeks (and had to take 11 days off from practice) and got thoroughly dominated. The Wolverines were out-gained 227-94 and trailed 28-0 at halftime — and yet it felt like it was a lot worse than that. Granted, Michigan (1-3) was without key players like Kwity Paye, Aidan Hutchinson and Jalen Mayfield, but does anyone really think they would’ve made a difference? Michigan’s body language was awful. There was always a chance that in this weird season, there would be teams that would check out, and Michigan looks like one of those teams. Although it is tough to say, because Michigan is now 0-11 as an underdog under Jim Harbaugh.
Who allowed this cutout in the Big House?! 😂 pic.twitter.com/QwO2uqLKsQ
— Al Toby (@AlTobyYahoo) November 15, 2020
Minnesota – Way too committed to the run
Tanner Morgan has attempted more passes than Mohamed Ibrahim runs once this season, and it was the season-opener. On Friday against Iowa, Ibrahim ran 33 times for 144 yards — his 3rd game this season with 30 or more carries. No other player has 2 such games. Down 35-0 with 6 1/2 minutes left, Ibrahim ran on 5 of the first 7 plays of the drive. Why? If you just want to run out the clock, why not give another back some run and save Ibrahim’s body for next week? And if you think you have a chance to win, why not allow one of the top returning QBs in the country to go to work with his star wideout? It makes no sense.
Michigan State – Rocky Lombardi is not the guy
On the ESPN broadcast, Holly Rowe mentioned that the coaching staff was vowing to stick with Rocky Lombardi after a 3 INT-game at Iowa last week. Mel Tucker had to eat his words after Lombardi turned it over 3 times, including 2 interceptions in the first half Saturday. Tucker went with redshirt freshman Payton Thorne (over redshirt sophomore Theo Day) the rest of the way. It was Lombardi’s 3rd start this season with multiple interceptions. There have to be consequences for that kind of performance, even if Tucker didn’t want to play the redshirt freshman quite yet.
Purdue – Aidan O’Connell needs to spread the wealth a little more
Far be it from me to begrudge a QB who tries to get his best player the ball, but even I have my limits, and the frequency with which Aidan O’Connell targeted David Bell in Saturday night’s loss to Northwestern was probably a little much. In a perfect world for Purdue, Rondale Moore would be out there, too (he sat out again), but he’s not, so O’Connell can’t lock on to Bell quite as much because good defenses like Northwestern will stop it. Bell was targeted 10 times in the first half, and he caught 5 for 42 yards. He finished with 9 catches for 78 yards.
Rutgers – The good vibes are starting to fade
After that season-opening win at Michigan State, Rutgers has come back to Earth with 3 straight losses. This was one they should’ve won — leading by 10 in the second half, at home, against a winless team. But the Scarlet Knights were -2 in turnovers and committed 7 penalties. Noah Vedral threw 3 more interceptions, giving him 7 in 4 games.